With the Pittsburgh Steelers dealing with a difficult salary cap situation for the 2021 season, much discussion has been made about which players may become cap casualties this offseason. While there are several players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap, I have already outlined the players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season.
Additionally, the players who could save the Steelers some cap space but the dead money hit would be a lot to overcome have been outlined as well. Just to clarify, “dead money” is the amount money already paid to a player that has yet to be accounted for under the salary cap.
In third and final part of the series, let’s look at the players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap versus their dead money hit.
Here is a list of the six Steelers who have a higher cap savings than their dead money amount if they were to be released for the 2021 season. The list was at seven this morning, but with the retirement of Vance McDonald, which saved the Steelers $5.2 million against the salary cap, the number is down to six (one of which is only a technicality). To keep the list under control and not get into a lot of rookie contracts which fit the description but actually save much money, these players are ones whose cap hit is more than $1.5 million. Granted, some of these players the Steelers would not consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production. But whether or not their departure would be likely given their salary cap situation, it never hurts to know the numbers. All figures listed are courtesy of overthecap.com and reflect if the player was a pre-June 1 cut.
Dead money: $5,547,500
Cap Savings: $8,750,000
The Steelers decision when it comes to David DeCastro is a bit of a tricky one. With six stright Pro Bowl selections as well as two first team All-Pro honors, DeCastro has been a staple in the Steelers offensive line for eight seasons. But at the age of 31, is he worth the $8.75 million the Steelers could save towards the salary cap? Because of his age, an extension isn’t something the Steelers are guaranteed to look to do. The Steelers could go either way with how to handle DeCastro for 2021.
Dead money: $6,475,000
Cap Savings: $8,000,000
Very similar to DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey has slightly more dead money and a little less salary cap savings. Pouncey has made the Pro Bowl in every NFL season where he’s played more than 8 snaps and has two All-Pro selections as well. Steelers may not half to decide what to do with Pouncey as it may be his decision to hang it up. But if not, they have to choose if the additional $8 million is worth it for their aging center.
Dead money: $6,170,000
Cap Savings: $8,250,000
Unlike many of the others on this list, Nelson is not a player whom age is a huge factor. Being today is his 28th birthday, Nelson would be a prime candidate for the Steelers to extend and knock down some of the $8.25 million he is due this season. Although releasing Nelson is an option, as well as merely playing at the last year his contract, the Steelers would be foolish to not attempt to work out an extension.
Dead money: $3,031,668
Cap Savings: $4,000,000
Another player over 30, Vince Williams turned 31 in December and has played eight years for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although a fierce run stopper, Williams gets exposed when called upon in pass coverage. With Devin Bush returning next season and other young players such as exclusive rights free agent Robert Spillane looking for playing time, Williams’ release would save the Steelers $4 million towards the salary cap.
Dead money: $2,500,000
Cap Savings: $6,000,000
When Ebron signed his contract with the Steelers last season, he was basically payed half of his salary last year and is due the other half this season. Of course, $2.5 million of that money from 2020 was pushed to 2021 to save salary cap space. With Ebron, it’s not nearly as much about the dead money as it is if the Steelers want to pay him $6 million this coming season. With the retirement of Vance McDonald, there would be a big hole at tight end in the Steelers move on from Ebron.
Dead money: $0
Cap Savings: $10,089,000
This one is only included because it fits the category as of this moment. Remember, these lists aren’t players the Steelers will even realistically consider cutting, just the ones that fit into each category. Before the new league year, the Steelers could technically part ways with T.J. Watt and have zero dead money and not owe him his fifth-year option. But even considering this notion is foolishness layered on foolishness covered with foolishness on top. If the Steelers do anything with T.J. Watt this offseason it would be his upcoming monster deal. The Steelers also have the option to play out Watt’s fifth year and use the franchise tag next season in order to have time to work out his deal going into 2022. Either way, Watt’s contract becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year and only changes with a new deal. If T.J. plays out this season for the $10 million, he’s still an absolute steal.
So these are the seven players currently under contract with the Steelers who have a salary cap savings which is more than their dead money hit. While cutting any of these players does carry some cost against the salary cap, the money has already been paid to the player so they are not taking any more cash out of pocket if they were released. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, some of these players are no-brainers to keep while others could be looking for the call from the Steelers’ front office sometime in the next several weeks.